Honestly, I didn’t realise this place existed, let alone that it was at risk of extinction unless someone bought it, until I read this article. However, despite our recent acquaintance, I already cannot bear to imagine a world without the National Christmas Museum. Luckily, it was snapped up fast by a generous hearted soul who saved it from becoming a relic of Christmas past. Good timing too, with holiday season in full swing and the USA now open for travel, as it’s the kind of nostalgic off-beat gem I’d consider booking a festive trip to the USofA around.
It also looks as magical as it sounds; a huge walk-through display of all things Christmas in America through the decades, including plenty of vintage decorations and displays. Apparently it’s one of the largest collections of historical Christmas memorabilia in the United States and as if this accolade wasn’t enough of a reason to book your trip, it’s also located in a town called Paradise in the state of Pennsylvania, in the heart of Dutch Country.
It was founded in 1998 by another Jim Morrison, who looks like Santa Claus and is known locally as the ‘keeper of Christmas’, and his business partner, Dave. Until recently, the collection was located in a 20,000-square-foot former inn, employing eight people and welcoming up to 20,000 visitors a year. What’s even more incredible is that it never made a profit, staying afloat purely as a labour of love.
In October, 2018, it relocated from its room at the inn into several barns on a nearby estate after a local company called Stone Gables Estate bought the entire Christmas collection. Jim announced on his museum’s Facebook page they were hanging up their Santa hats after the 2017 season and were looking for a buyer. The news drew an outpouring of comments from past guests expressing their sadness and fond memories of their visits – until a new owner eventually came forward.
Everything was carefully and painstakingly packed and, loaded onto numerous tractor trailers, and taken to a climate-controlled area where it was checked, cleaned, restored and put up in its new home. Collections include 17-foot tall real-life buildings depicting the streets of Columbia, Pennsylvania as they were in the 1950s. Featured storefronts include a walk-in Woolworth’s shop a boy’s toy shop (with a world-class collection of models, trains, and more), a girl’s toy shop (with a world-class collection of dollhouses, dolls, and more), the Sweet Shoppe featuring Klein Chocolates, Miesse Candies, Byer’s Bakery.
Add the National Christmas Centre in Paradise, Pennsylvania to your off-beat travel bucketlist!